Attitudes towards violence against women

Export Indicator

The percentage of women and men aged 15 to 49 years who agree that a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife for specific reasons
What it measures

Progress towards achieving gender equality


Gender inequality continues to stand in the way of global goals to end AIDS by 2030. Inequitable gender norms that confine women and men to specific roles in society - together with gender disparities in education and employment - greatly limit HIV prevention strategies among women, girls, and gender and sexual minorities. Fear, experiences of violence and power imbalances in relationships also increase vulnerability to HIV among these groups, limiting their access to HIV services and reducing their adherence to HIV prevention or treatment technologies. This leaves them disproportionately affected by HIV. Scaling up programmes to increase gender equity and intensifying efforts to achieve gender equality is therefore critical for ending AIDS as a global public health threat by 2030.


Number of respondents who agree with at least one of the statements


Total number of respondents



Method of measurement

Population-based surveys. This indicator is constructed from responses to the following question among respondents:

In your opinion, is a husband justified in hitting or beating his wife in the following situations?

a. If she goes out without telling him? (yes, no, don't know)

b. If she neglects the children? (yes, no, don't know)

c. If she argues with him? (yes, no, don't know)

d. If she refuses to have sex with him? (yes, no, don't know)

e. If she burns the food? (yes, no, don't know)

The numerator included respondents who expressed agreement with one or more of the situations.

Measurement frequency

Every 3-5 years

  • Age (15-19, 20-24, 25-49 years).
  • Gender (male, female).
Additional information requested


Strengths and weaknesses

This indicator indirectly assesses inequitable gender norms, which have been associated with a higher risk of HIV infection and violence. The indicator is calculated from responses to a validated question that has been asked for many years in population-based surveys. This indicator will be generalizable to adults within a given country, as it is based on data from a random sample of the general population. Changes in the indicator should be interpreted as follows: an increase in the prevalence indicates a rise in harmful gender norms that may indicate a widening of gender inequalities in a country, signaling the need for mitigating actions, whereas a decrease in the prevalence indicates progress towards achieving gender equality.

The indicator only examines one aspect of inequitable norms: attitudes about the appropriateness of physical abuse in marital relationships. It does not capture other inequitable gender norms among men and women (e.g., power in the relationship, control of financial resources and so on), nor does it capture inequitable norms towards sexual and gender minorities.

The list of reasons and/or wording of the reasons that justify hitting a wife may vary slightly between specific country surveys in order to better reflect the country context. In some countries, the questions are only asked of married women or married men.

Further information

Asaolu I, Alaofè H, Gunn JKL, Adu A, Monroy A, Ehiri J et al. Measuring women's empowerment in sub-Saharan Africa: exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses of the Demographic and Health Surveys. Front Psychol. 2018;9:994.

Das M, Ghosh S, Miller E, O'Connor B, Verma R. Engaging coaches and athletes in fostering gender equity: findings from the Parivartan program in Mumbai, India. New Delhi; 2012.

Hanmer L, Klugman J. Exploring women's agency and empowerment in developing countries: where do we stand? Feminist Economics. 2016;22(1):237-63.

Jennings L, Na M, Cherewick M, Hindin M, Mullany B, Ahmed S. Women's empowerment and male involvement in antenatal care: analyses of Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) in selected African countries. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2014;14(1):297.

Jewkes R, Nduna M, Levin J, Jama N, Dunkle K, Puren A et al. Impact of Stepping Stones on incidence of HIV and HSV-2 and sexual behaviour in rural South Africa: cluster randomised controlled trial. BMJ. 2008;337.

Kishor S, Subaiya L. Understanding women's empowerment: a comparative analysis of Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) data. DHS Comparative Reports. No. 20. Calverton (MD): Macro International Inc; 2008 (

Pulerwitz J, Gottert A, Kahn K, Haberland N, Julien A, Selin A et al. Gender norms and HIV testing/treatment uptake: evidence from a large population-based sample in South Africa. AIDS Behav. 2019;23(Suppl 2):162-71.

For more on the methods and survey instruments for the Demographic and Health Survey and AIDS Indicator Survey, see